MORRIS TOWNSHIP -- All it takes is a spark. A flicker of hope to ignite the fire that burns inside. Glen Rock will always remember its first time.
Peter Cassidy broke the ice 10:44 into the game, Eddie Corvelli scored 22 seconds later and Matthew Maselli buried another with 55 seconds left in the first period as top-seeded Glen Rock took the lead and never looked back en route to an 8-1 triumph over 10th-seeded Wall Township to lay claim to its very first state title in school history at the 42nd NJSIAA/New Jersey Devils State Championships at Mennen Arena in Morris Township.
"We came out ready to play," senior captain Jake Kinney said. "To be able to call ourselves state champs is just incredible. When the horn sounded, all my teammates jumped and kept piling on. It's hard to describe. We did together. It's amazing."
After falling short to Ramsey in last year's title bout, the Panthers were not going to be denied again.
"We were not going to be denied tonight no matter what," Glen Rock first-year coach Anthony Yelovich said. "It's a tribute to how hard these guys worked. We lost 11 seniors and two junior transfers. There were 14 new guys on this roster. This is what we talked about in April when I took the job."
Blessed with a 3-0 lead after one period of play, Cassidy notched his second of the game 10:20 into the second frame. Kinney set up Colin Morrow to make it 5-0 before connecting on his own on the power-play with 23 seconds remaining.
"A lot of different goal-scorers today. It really shows off the depth we've had all year," Kinney added. "Peter Cassidy, Matt Maselli, John LaMacchia -- that entire line. My linemates, Eddie Corvelli and Derek Kelly, an incredible game scoring from all different sides."
Glen Rock (22-3-4) went back to work in the third period and tacked on two more goals from Corvelli and Robert Fenton before Wall Township (18-7-2) finally broke through when Colin Gabudza finished the play started by Noah Lozano with 6:32 remaining in regulation.
"Those two quick goals put us in a hole, we didn't dig out of it right away then they scored that third one. That shut the door a little bit, we tried to kick it open but credit to them, they played excellent," Wall coach Mike Dianora said. "We were with them, shots were even most of the game, we just got in a hole and didn't get out."
Despite losing his shutout bid, Ryan McAuley produced another standout performance in between the pipes for Glen Rock as the junior netminder finished with 22 saves.
"Matt Rosario, Chris Birdsall, Harris Nebbia -- so many great goalies that played here before me and never won it. It's a pretty surreal feeling," McAuley said. "Some big shoes to fill but I knew I had a great team in front of me and each game I kept getting better, kept building my confidence. This hasn't hit me yet. See how it feels in the morning."
"The kid gets better every day. It's a huge credit to our goaltending coach," Yelovich said.
"Wall is a great team, they have a great goalie in Logan Beattie, I did not expect this at all," Yelovich added. "We found some kinks in their armor and exposed it."
After 14 years as head coach, Sergio Fernandez stepped down as bench boss but remained on staff as an assistant this season.
"This is my 15th year with the program and I'm numb. This is a long time coming," Fernandez said. "Everyone who has ever worn a Glen Rock jersey is proud of this team right now, living through them. A tremendous season."
This season marked Wall Township's first-ever appearance in the state finals. Dianora was thrilled with the effort his team gave.
"They're all winners," Dianora said. "I've been here 16 years and this is the best year we've ever had. I'm so proud of these guys. We won. We weren't the team holding the trophy at the end of the day but that's OK. Everything we did this year, they'll remember this for the rest of their lives and I'll never forget them for the rest of my life. Nobody gave this team a chance this year. This team will have a special place in my heart."
"I'm just so proud of our team this year, what we accomplished," Wall senior Shane Haviland said. "No one gave us a chance. We had a lot of doubters and we proved them wrong. I just can't say enough about the guys in this room. I'm sad it's coming to an end but it was a tremendous four years."
At the end of the day, the game belonged to Glen Rock.
"We had to compete every shift," Kinney said. "Our coaching staff prepared us for every game. We had to compete from start to finish."
"I can't even explain it. It's weird," McAuley said. "It's pretty surreal. Just these last five minutes. I don't know."
Glen Rock -- Peter Cassidy (Matthew Maselli) 4:16
Glen Rock -- Eddie Corvelli (Jake Kinney) 3:54
Glen Rock -- Matthew Maselli (John LaMacchia, Peter Cassidy) :55
Glen Rock -- Peter Cassidy (John LaMacchia) 4:40
Glen Rock -- Colin Morrow (Jake Kinney) 1:09
Glen Rock -- Jake Kinney (Leo Pawlicka) :23 PPG
Glen Rock -- Eddie Corvelli (Jake Kinney) 12:00
Glen Rock -- Robert Fenton 9:19
Wall Township -- Colin Gabuzda (Noah Lozano) 6:32
Ryan McAuley, Glen Rock, 22 saves. Logan Beattie, Wall Township, 18 saves.